Michael Mann might be a familiar name to some of you, as director of Heat, which I’ll get to soon, and Collateral, starring Tom Cruise in one of his rare villainous roles. Well, Mann pretty much first made his name in features with this early, pre-Silence of the Lambs adaptation of Red Dragon, the first film to feature Hannibal Lector, here played by Brian Cox. Manhunter is the tale of FBI profiler Will Graham, who is brought out of retirement to track down the “Tooth Fairy” killer, with the reluctant help of Lector who was nearly responsible for killing him.
The film has a decidedly 80s feel to it, which means it hasn’t aged particularly well, and I’m wondering if this is going to be a running thing with 80s American films on the list. Mostly it’s the soundtrack that adds to this feel, which utilizes that synthesized music that seemed to be all the rage back then, but the cinematography is also to blame. The film looks very gritty and almost amateurish, but this can be forgiven when watching the subject matter and the script play out on screen, which are quite good. The scenes featuring Lector in his white cell achieve a clinical feel that would remain true to the character as we would see him in later films.
This is more of a CSI style FBI investigation film than a regular whodunit; Graham spends much of his screen time trying to get into the head of his target, asking himself questions to try and think like the killer does, while the Tooth Fairy gets a good portion of the middle section to develop his unnerving and unsettling character. I liked this film overall, but I wasn’t convinced it deserved a spot on the must see list. Still, for crime investigation films, you could do a whole lot worse than this. Give it a go if you don’t mind the somewhat aged feel the film mostly keeps to.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10